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Iran Feature: Inside Story on How Supreme Leader Accepted Rafsanjani's Presidential Campaign

Rafsanjani & Supreme Leader in the 1980sA member of Hashemi Rafsanjani's camp, Gholam-Ali Rajaee, has suggested that the former President decided to formally declare his candidacy after he received a nod from the Supreme Leader's office.

In a detailed account of Rafsanjani's manoeuvres on Saturday, Rajaee indicates that teh former President had decided in the morning against a campaign, only to be lobbied by a series of visitors --- including clerics and MPs --- to make a run.

During the day, the momentum for a campaign built, including a message from Rafsanjani's brother Mohammad Hashemi that senior Iraqi cleric Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani had asked Rafsanjani to stand.

At 4 p.m., advisors told Rafsanjani that if he was not going to register as a candidate, he should write a message to the people and let them know. The former President agreed to draft a satement; however, an hour later, the advisors told others, "Hurry up. Rafsanjani is setting off to the Interior Ministry to register."

What had changed?

Rafsanjani had consulted the Supreme Leader's office. He had received a "not negative" response --- not a definitive green light to run but also not a rejection.

According to Rajaee, the news that Rafsanjani had registered was greeted with demonstrations of popular support across Iran, with "lambs and cows being slaughtered" in celebration. People rang up the former President's office and asking to set up Popular Committees to support him.


So if the Supreme Leader decided on Saturday to give a "half-green light" to Rafsanjani to stand, what prompted his decision?

Has the Supreme Leader have found himself in a difficult situation, with no popular "unity" candidate chosen from among his 2+1 Committee and with none of his preferred choices --- now including Secretary of the National Security Council Saeed Jalili as well as Khamenei's senior aide Ali Akbar Velayati, leading MP Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf --- having much popular support?

In contrast, Rafsanjani has demonstrated that he does have that support --- even allowing for the level of it to be exaggerated somewhat by his camp. Not only does the former President have his political bases, he can also count on reformists and many in the Green Movement who have had to put up with four years of repression after the the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

If the Supreme Leader had refused to allow Rafsanjani's registration, Ayatollah Khamenei risked widespread dissatisfaction with the Presidential race --- and thus the undermining of any facade of "legitimacy" --- even before the campaign has properly started.

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